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Fracked Gas Pipelines: New York NOW

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Environmentalists cheered last December when Health Commissioner Howard Zucker urged Governor Cuomo to prohibit hydraulic fracturing for natural gas because of unknown health risks it posed to New Yorkers. However, this does not mean the controversial fuel won’t still flow through our state. Dig a few feet below the surface and you’ll find a complex network of pipes carrying gas and fuel to heat homes, cook food and sell for profit.

“They are coming on our beautiful land and this is just my personal, I mean forget about the environmental and impact and all that. Our land that we’ve worked so hard for all our lives to have something like this and for their power and greed they’re able to ride rough shot over us.”

Anne Stack, a land owner in Delaware County says she never thought about energy infrastructure until a few years ago. In 2012, she and her husband Bob purchased 96 acres to build their retirement dream home, when they received a letter and then a phone call from the Constitution Pipeline.

“It’s a very painful emotional situation; we realize for the first time in our lives, this is our first experience with corporate greed directly impacting us. You read about it you hear about it, but boy when it strikes home it’s a whole new ball of wax.”

The couple was informed that their rural Catskills property was on the path of the proposed Constitution Pipeline, and their dream retirement home would sit directly above it. Stack call the 30-inch pipes dangerous and says they’d require a 50-foot easement, essentially make their home impossible.

Chris Stockton, a spokesperson for Constitution Pipeline, says it’s essential to get gas from Pennsylvania into New England where the demand is high.

“This is infrastructure that is vital to our nation’s economy and to meeting our energy needs and I think now even more so with the State of New York prohibiting natural gas production in the state, the state becomes even more dependent on infrastructure that can connect the state with production that’s taking place elsewhere.”

Stockton says Constitution’s parent company, the Texas based Williams Corporation, safely maintains 15-thousand miles of underground fuel pipelines nationwide. The project has already been granted a certificate of approval from the Federal Energy Regulatory Committee or FERC.

In a rail yard in Guilderland, the pipes that would eventually make up the Constitution Pipeline are stacked in rows. They’ll bring pressurized natural gas from the state of Pennsylvania across the border into New York States Leather Stocking region. If the DEC chooses to give final approval to the project, the pipes would be buried anywhere from 3 to 5 feet below the ground and run along the Catskill ridge.

“The pipeline company likes to make it sound like, when they get that certificate from FERC that this is it. That everybody should just roll over and submit cause there’s no way you can stop it now.”

That sentiment led Pace Environmental Attorney Ann Marie Garti to start Stop the Pipeline an organization of Catskill landowners, like the Stacks, who are resisting the Constitution Pipeline on their land.

As a result, the company has begun serving holdouts with eminent domain papers.

Meanwhile, the State Department of Environmental Conservation, who has the final word on the project, began holding public comment meetings while they determine the impact Constitution might have on air and water quality.

The Constitution Pipeline would stretch from Susquehanna County in Pennsylvania through Delaware, Broome and Chenango Counties ending in Schoharie where it would deliver fracked natural gas to two existing pipelines in New York.

In the rural hills of the Capital region, some residents there are organizing against a proposed expansion of the multi-state Tennessee Pipeline, operated by Texas based Kinder Morgan. The project would increase capacity of their gas line from Schoharie into New England for distribution, pending FERC and DEC approval.

Bill Jackson has lived on his Rensselaer County property with his family for 40 years. His back yard butts up against National Grid’s existing power line easement that Kinder Morgan plans to co-locate much of the Tennessee pipeline along.  Should an accident happen, he says his family is within the affected zone.

“Because we’re in a rural community, we’re considered a low impact area and it’s not really all that critical from a population perspective ---- I consider myself as important as anybody else along this pipeline and I think just because there are fewer of us doesn’t mean that it’s ethically proper take this kind of advantage in a rural situation.”

Residents, like the Jacksons, along the Tennessee route are hoping to they can successfully prevent a pipeline from running though their communities.

That’s why Becky Meier, co-founder Stop New York Fracked Gas Pipeline NOW.

“There are a lot of dangerous chemicals, so if those are leaking from pipes, are they going into our water stream into our air and into our soil. This is an agricultural area, and we don’t want it in our soil, we don’t want it in our water we don’t want it in our air. And there hasn’t really been much testing about this.”

But it’s not just concerns about contamination. The new Tennessee Pipeline also calls for a new compressor station just outside of the southern Rensselaer town of Nassau. Compressor stations are strategically located along pipeline routes to keep the gas pressurized and help push it along. The new station would be several times larger this this one in Chatham, and Meier describes compressor stations as a dangerous nuisance to nearby residents.

"There is a constant dull noise to me it sounds like planes that are idling on the runway."

Stop New York Fracked Gas Pipeline NOW, advises landowners to reject all offers of compensation and not allow surveyors on their property.

Meier admits the likely hood of an accident is small and the demand for more natural gas is a constant factor.

“Some people have put up what I consider a red herring to say it’s cheap or it’s safer to be in the pipes than to be on trains or trucks but trains or trucks aren’t a practical way to transport gas. So if you’re going to transport gas the pipeline is gonna be it.”

But for land owners whose property would be directly impacted by these potential natural gas pipelines this isn’t about supply and demand or even transportation, but their proprietary rights.

The New York State DEC extended the public comment period on the Constitution Pipeline until February 27th. They have yet to take up public comment on the Tennessee Pipeline.

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